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Charles Conner (sometimes identified as ‘Connor’) was born in Richmond in 1857. He was the son of James Connor, one of the pioneers of the city, making Charles one of Richmond’s earliest painters. As a youth he was a pattern maker and worked in factories but began to frequently draw, painting black and white landscapes in both oils and watercolors. In 1887 he left his native city in pursuit of California, where he developed himself as a self-taught artist. Until 1895, he traveled the Pacific Coast while painting with his brother, Albert.
Once he returned home, his California landscapes and artistic development were noticed and his masterpiece “Wet Night in February” was chosen to be exhibited at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. His natural talent was so respected that he became a part of the “Richmond Group” after fellow Indiana artist John Elwood Bundy – among many others – took notice of him. Of Mr. Conner, Bundy stated, “I regard Mr. Connor as one of the strongest painters in the West, and in this I only voice the sentiments of other Western artists. His work was characterized by its broad and direct style and in this respect his technique was quite different from that of any other artist in the West. His pictures all reflected his originality. His work was rugged, bold, and strong and if it excelled in any particular it was in color. He had an excellent conception of coloring and his work always was noteworthy for this.” -J.E.
Bundy, The Indianapolis Sunday Star, from the article “Painting Exhibit Offers Tribute: Works of Charles Connor Seen Here Recall Untutored but Bright Career”, July 14, 1912
Conner’s works were exhibited again at the St. Louis Exposition in 1907, and were often shown in the Society of Western Artists Exhibitions and shows throughout the state of Indiana. However, his career began late and his life ended shortly, resulting in a total output of less than 50 paintings. Due to living with a severe handicap impairment of ongoing, delicate health issues, he died in Richmond in 1905 at the age of 48.
Indianapolis News, Sept. 3, 1940; IMA Library Artist Files